Month: August 2014

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

This past week (my first with flipped learning) has been overwhelming to say the least. After working with students who were iPad-proficient at the end of last year, I have a whole new group who are new to the technology. On top of that, I am using some apps and programs that are new to me. For some strange reason, I believed that we could jump right in and start swimming, but it has been a challenge getting everyone used to what we do.

I also learned a lot of new ideas this summer, especially from the great book Flipping 2.0. These include curated web research and collaborative notes. I tried both of these this week, and it did not go as well as expected. The students learned, but not to the level of mastery.

To counter this, I relied on things that I had already done in previous years. I broke the material we covered into smaller chunks and let groups choose the areas they wanted. They had to learn that material and present it to the class. There was a very limited amount of time for them to review it, and their presentations were limited to 55 seconds. The best group (as determined by class votes) won experience points. (This is through a new game called Classcraft, which I will blog about this later.)

I also have planned an activity that I did heavily last year: allow for quiet, individual, and independent learning time where students read about subject areas through the web for a set amount of time and then debrief. (The debriefing can be done either through Padlet or in person; I will do face to face debriefing this week) This was highly effective last year, and I will do it this week to reinforce what we have covered, so students master the learning objectives.

As I do many new things this year, I must remember what I have done in the past and hold on to things that worked. Refining, not redoing, is often the path to success.

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Success and FAILure in Flipped Learning

The other day, I had some struggles with flipped ELA. I realized that I had not given students enough direction in an ELA assignment. They will ultimately have to read excerpts of primary sources of Colonial writings (City on a Hill, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Salem Witch Trials transcript, Anne Hutchinson transcript) and read one in its entirety. I wanted them to be able to access background information, but they were overwhelmed and wanted to plow through the work and get it all done. I readjusted and yesterday, I had groups create curated google doc notes of areas (Great Migration, Great Awakening, Salem Witch Trials, etc.) that the class will be able to access for background knowledge. Although I had to work with them on getting their documents up and running, they ran with it and were totally engaged. They created excellent google docs, and they will be able to access them as resources for the upcoming primary source readings.

History class was not quite as successful. I put a series of videos and websites up with the standard and told students that the time is theirs to master the content. It seemed good, but I think some of them are a little lost without the teacher direction. Today, I will do a whole-class activity on the basketball court to demonstrate the high-stakes gambling mentality of the colonists at Roanoke and Jamestown. (Students will shoot three-pointers to try and get a big prize, just like the colonists were willing to forgo farming in order to strike it rich. Eventually, they will miss a three-pointer, which means that the game is over, just like the colonists at Roanoke did not strike it rich and all perished.) I will also break down the standard into smaller, more manageable learning objectives, and students will read the textbook and create collaborative notes (I will allow them the choice to divide the reading into chunks). I will make the point, however, that the goal is not to get the notes DONE, but to use it as an avenue to mastering the standard.

After just a week of flipped learning, I have learned that one of its great strengths is that I can easily change course. I feel that traditional teaching is like teaching on train tracks. If there is a collision coming, it is very hard to adjust. With flipped learning (and with the ease of formative assessment through Google Forms and Socrative), I can easily adjust course to avoid approaching icebergs or obstacles. If Day One is a FAILure, Day Two could easily be a rousing success.

As Jason Bretzmann, an expert flipper, has said, “It is a work in progress.” THAT is the beauty of the Flipped Classroom.

First Attempt in (Flipped) Learning: Part II

Today was the first real time when I would teach curriculum. I was looking forward to it. I had an assignment where they would be read selections from the Colonial Era, choose one of them to read in-depth, and then summarize it and reflect on it in a blog. I provided supplemental readings and videos to help along the way. Sounds great, right?

It bombed.

The kids immediately began to try to work together not as a group helping each other learn, but to each do as little work as possible. There was clearly no intrinsic motivation in the classroom.

I realized after the flop that although we must provide autonomy for our students, we must also provide some direction. For tomorrow, I will clarify what the ultimate learning goals are: reading excerpts from primary sources from the era, choosing one, reading its entirety, and then summarizing and blogging about it. For tomorrow’s group activity, I will have groups research various topics (by choosing which one to research). Each group will create a Google Doc, curating and summarizing what the students learn. For good measure, we will throw in some gamification: groups who have lopsided creators (thank you, revision history!) will lose HP, and the group with the best links and summaries of knowledge will get AP. These documents will provide background information for students the following days, when they will have to individually read these primary source excerpts and reflect on it.

This is the plan, but then again, I might just FAIL again.

Beyond Genius Hour

With the growing popularity of Genius Hour, there might be a situation arising soon that few people have yet anticipated.

What if various teachers in a departmentalized school (most likely a middle or high school) ALL decided to do Genius Hour? What if several students had several teachers who all did Genius Hour? Would that student do self-directed learning in history on Monday, and self-directed learning in English on Tuesday, while doing it in biology and geometry on Thursday? This could become problematic, and it raises a number of questions. Would students pursue several different projects throughout one week, or pursue one throughout his or her classes? What if some students had four classes of Genius Hour per week, while other students had only one or two? Parents might be okay for a period of forgoing curriculum every week, but will they be okay with multiple times per week?

This is probably not happening this exact moment, but it will probably affect some schools very soon. The sooner that we as teachers can anticipate this problem and address it now, the better.

I would like to propose a solution. Atlassian, an Australian company, has its employees engage in what used to be called FedEx Days (now called ShipIt Days). On those days, employees can work on whatever they choose, as long as they deliver their product within one day (hence the idea of overnight performance). I believe that as more and more teachers adopt Genius Hour, some schools might want to consider “FedEx Days” (or “Delivery Days” to stay away from copyright infringement) where students can work on their own projects for an entire day every week. The possibilities for STEM are wide open because students will be able to think of a project, test it out, adjust accordingly, and create a new experiment within one day. In other words, students can hypothesize about what might work in a design, track the failures, and create a new project to refine it.

Although the popularity of Genius Hour might seem like a challenge or a road block, it is really an opportunity for some great work.

My First EdCamp!

Today was EdCamp San Francisco Bay. It was truly a great experience. I had heard so much about Edcamps, but because of the informality of the process, I didn’t quite know what to expect.

What struck me most of all was the collegiality of the gatherings, both formal and informal. I think that most people who voluntarily attend Edcamps are comfortable with technology, and everyone has something to offer. Even the great Alice Keeler, Cheryl Morris, Beth OingDiane Main, Moss Pike, and Lisa Highfill were willing to listen to what others had to say. I had lunch with people from Merit, and they were as humble as could be. The content of sessions mattered much less than all of us being together and providing emotional support for one another. The mere act of helping and supporting one another was what I took away from EdCamp.

We are all dedicated to helping learners prepare for the 21st century, and if we all help one another, we might just change the world.

First Attempt in (Flipped) Learning

I spent all summer in eager anticipation of this. I read books. I applied what I had learned in workshops. I worked and worked and worked to get ready for this. Flipped Learning.

I created a google site for the class. I made video after video after video. I annotated videos. Lately, I had even been inserting quiz questions through EdPuzzle. I had imagined and reimagined what the first day of a flipped class would look like. Students would be excited, impassioned, and would be ready to lead the charge into a new way of education. 

And yet, here we were after two days, struggling with app after app, barely getting students on board. Despite the fact that I had tested out access codes beforehand, there were still problems in class. We had spent the first day doing nothing but going over locker procedures. I spoke briefly about Flipped Learning, but didn’t seem to inspire them. I couldn’t even assign a video after two days because not all the students were even on EdPuzzle. 

Does this mean that my flipped learning model is doomed? I don’t think so. (I hope not!!!) This is a completely new way of learning for students, and it will take time for them to get the hang of things. It will also take time for me as a teacher to properly design classroom instruction accordingly. This was certainly my “First Attempt in Learning” (otherwise known as FAIL), and I will have many more as I work my way through Flipped Learning.

First Attempt in (Flipped) Learning

I spent all summer in eager anticipation of this. I read books. I applied what I had learned in workshops. I worked and worked and worked to get ready for this. Flipped Learning.

I created a google site for the class. I made video after video after video. I annotated videos. Lately, I had even been inserting quiz questions through EdPuzzle. I had imagined and reimagined what the first day of a flipped class would look like. Students would be excited, impassioned, and would be ready to lead the charge into a new way of education. 

And yet, here we were after two days, struggling with app after app, barely getting students on board. Despite the fact that I had tested out access codes beforehand, there were still problems in class. We had spent the first day doing nothing but going over locker procedures. I spoke briefly about Flipped Learning, but didn’t seem to inspire them. I couldn’t even assign a video after two days because not all the students were even on EdPuzzle. 

Does this mean that my flipped learning model is doomed? I don’t think so. (I hope not!!!) This is a completely new way of learning for students, and it will take time for them to get the hang of things. It will also take time for me as a teacher to properly design classroom instruction accordingly. This was certainly my “First Attempt in Learning” (otherwise known as FAIL), and I will have many more as I work my way through Flipped Learning.

Summer of Learning

This summer, I did not go to any major conferences. With the sole exception of the Educational Technology Leadership Consortium (ETLC ) Conference on June 12th, and the upcoming EdCamp in San Francisco Bay on August 23rd, I will have attended exactly ZERO professional development sessions this summer. That’s right: none. To further kick things off, I was in desperate need for a break from moderating a weekly Twitter chat, so I have been a little less connected than usual this summer.

Believe me, it wasn’t from a lack of desire. Running my school’s summer program, having a three-month old in the house, and not possessing enough money to fly away on a whim kept me home bound. Ironically, my situation enabled me to learn a lot in preparation for the upcoming year.

Although I only attended one conference, the ETLC, I did learn how incredibly easy it is to set up a Google Site and to embed video lessons and websites directly into the site. Jim Puccetti of De La Salle High School also taught me how students can post their assignments on their own websites and give me the link on my site via Google Forms. Once again, this is extremely easy to do.

I had also started the summer with a vague idea forming in my brain: flipped learning. I purchased and read Flipping 2.0. The revolutionary ideas of Kate Baker and the joint English class of Cheryl Morris and Andrew Thomasson blew me away. I did realize that this could potentially be a major project, so I tried to go through an easy route of curating other people’s videos and putting them on playlists on my YouTube channel. However, it finally dawned on me that I would have to bite the bullet and create videos of my own. I downloaded Camtasia and ambitiously tried to create enough videos for the year. Although I failed in this respect, I did get a great jump start for the year.

I also struggled with the platform for presenting these videos for students. I could easily post a video to YouTube and embed it on my Google Site, but if it went through Blendspace, then all the materials for a unit would be easily accessible for students. This way, I could include other videos and useful websites (that would be optional). There was one problem with Blendspace: I wanted quiz questions to appear during the video, not to ensure compliance (that they watched the videos), but to ensure that the ideas stuck in their brains, and I was not impressed with Blendspace’s quizzing abilities. Somehow, the app EdPuzzle made its way into my brain, I tried it out, and fell in love with it. It is a user-friendly way to add comments and questions to videos.

In addition to flipped learning, I have also considered gamification. EdcampHome (an Edcamp available through Google Hangouts) alerted me to the possibility of using Classcraft as a system to provide incentives for students to perform certain tasks and to work collaboratively. This will be my first foray into gamification.

Although I did not participate in much professional development, I have truly learned a lot. In today’s world, excellent professional development is just a few clicks away.